Doug Thompson of Capitol Hill Blue has written an intensely powerful column about the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Here are parts of it; I highly recommend reading the entire piece. I agree with it completely.
With the brutal hanging of Saddam Hussein in the pre-dawn hours Saturday, the transformation of the United States of America from world power to international exporter of terror is complete.
While one can argue that Hussein deserved to die for his many crimes against humanity, the question that history will ask is whether or not he deserved to die at the hands of a nation that invaded his country without provocation and orchestrated a trial to fulfill a political agenda of an American President who, himself, may be both a madman and greater threat to world peace.
…We invaded [Iraq ]to serve a personal and political agenda of one man who used lies and demagoguery to launch a war that should have him on trial for crimes against humanity.
… Like most despots and war criminals, Bush is a coward, a cardboard cowboy who lives an illusionary life surrounded by his own fantasies. … If this nation and the world survive the lunacy of his actions, history will no doubt prove the real crimes originated not in a palace in Baghdad but in the Oval Office of the White House.
And that same history may conclude the wrong man swung at the end of a rope on this last Saturday of 2006.
As a side note, I’m absolutely against the death penalty. Saddam would have been far better punished by spending the rest of his life in a solitary cell; away from the media; living in cramped, uncomfortable quarters; and contemplating whether his years of despotism were worth it. By supporting his death, the United States has only proven yet again that in some ways we’re far less “civilized” than many third-world countries; our legalized killings place us on a list with such countries as Iran, Somalia, China, and North Korea. I’m only surprised that W didn’t call for Saddam to die by beheading — a punishment that Iraq still allows. Maybe then he would have bothered to pay attention at the moment his personal bane died.
Powerful thoughts which we should all spend some time considering!
I have to wonder if your feelings about the death penalty would be affected if you had seen members of your family tortured and killed. I fully understand that some people might be haunted by images of Saddam for many years, and the specter of him being able to return to power (by way of a fall of the tentative democracy that currently exists, but is in no way guaranteed to remain as long as Saddam might have lived) might very well be easier to live with for tens of thousands of Iraqis.
As it stands now, those tormented by the life of Saddam can never, ever be tormented by his life again. Rather than vindictively punish him, extracting our “pound of flesh” for years and years of captivity, I’m glad that he has (rather inexpensively) been eliminated from the long list of threats to Iraqi stability. Is it more cruel to kill him, and let him suffer for moments, or kill him slowly with imprisonment, watching him suffer as years and years of his life pass by?
On a different note, the fact that some less-than-wonderful countries choose to implement laws that coincide with ours is not much of a case for “bad company.” There are all sorts of alignments that do and don’t line up with “good countries” that we could be similarly upset over. Is caning appropriate punishment for Michael Fay vandalizing cars? Would we call Singapore backward or “uncivilized?”
Lastly, the fact that Saddam did many of these horrible things in complicity with US foreign policy (since the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”), and much of that long before President Bush took office, a large portion of responsibility for his actions should fall into the laps of US policy makers. I’m not suggesting hanging for those involved in the US, but clearly, nobody on this side of the equation is going to be held responsible for supporting the hideous actions of Saddam’s empire. That, to me, is a crime in itself. – Tim
>>I have to wonder if your feelings about the death penalty would be affected if you had seen members of your family tortured and killed. >>
The death penalty is always wrong.
“The hurt is very great. But they don’t balance the hurt with hate.” A researcher who studies children in Amish society gave this explanation for the Amish community’s reaction to the recent schoolhouse killings. They forgave the killer, which seemed incredible to many Americans because we’re so used to violence as the ultimate means of justice and revenge. Granted, the Amish gain their pacifist beliefs and capacity for forgiveness from their religious faith, and my beliefs come from Humanism. But our basic view is the same: answering violence with violence is not the answer.
If such a thing happened to my family, I’m sure I’d be so overwhelmed with grief that my immediate thoughts would be to wish any amount of pain and death on the person responsible. However, after that initial instinctive response, I believe I’d return to my fundamental position: to kill is wrong. Revenge is not sufficient motive to take another person’s life. No person should be able to decide whether someone should die; we have no right to claim responsibility for another’s place on the planet.
Say a killer is executed via capital punishment. What of the killer’s family and friends? The victim’s family may feel closure, a sense of satisfied revenge, even joy; but another family now experiences the grief and pain of having a life taken from them. Is the killer’s family any less important than the victim’s? Does continuing the cycle of violence truly serve the ends of justice?
[ I suppose it’s necessary to add here, in order to fend off future “but what if…” arguments, that yes, I would kill if necessary in self-defense or defense of my family. But killing in the name of justice … in the name of society … in the name of revenge … no. ]
>>those tormented by the life of Saddam can never, ever be tormented by his life again. >>
True. But all of Iraq will now almost certainly be rocked by increasing waves of violence in response to his death, as his supporters hold him up as a martyr. Moldering in prison, his memory would have faded over the years. Replayed forever on Internet video, his death on the scaffold will remain vivid for Iraqis and the world. Saddam’s execution will only exacerbate the violence and continue the cycle of hatred and pain; no good can or will come of it.
>>Would we call Singapore backward or “uncivilized?” >>
Judging from many things I’ve read about it, yes. The U.S. and the other countries that allow capital punishment have a ways to go before we’re fully civilized, too.
>>nobody on this side of the equation is going to be held responsible for supporting the hideous actions of Saddam’s empire. That, to me, is a crime in itself. >>
I agree. (Finally!)
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Happy New Year!
WOW! What a provocative and edifying piece. Though some of my thoughts were conveyed here, I learned even more than I expected today.
This is sadly the things that probably won’t make the history books. I want my grandchildren to know the TRUTH and not HIStory when they’re in school. Maybe I’ll print this and other pieces out and start a scrap book for the future. I’m appalled at what I know will be misrepresented later on.
Happy new year to you, Blu! We’re living through a dismal piece of history right now, unfortunately. Our mantra these days is “less than two more years.” With the idiot-in-chief out of office, surely (surely!) things can only get better!
Your rationale for opposition to the death penalty seems, in my opinion (and probably because it coincides with that opinion), very convincing. I have found over many years, however, that neither side of this debate readily changes their view (if ever) – the polarisation of for and against seems almost intrinsic to the personality of each individual. I live in a country where there is no capital punishment and am glad to do so. I have always agreed with the old definition of capital punishment as the punishment you get when you don’t have capital.
Oscarandre, your last sentence is marvelous. I haven’t heard that before, and it’s entirely too true!
you are sooooo wrong…first things first…what was your source to write this? the news? probably. secondly. our troops are in iraq because on 9/11 over 5,000 americans were killed by terrorists…that is why they are in iraq. not so politicans can benifit. also wether you like it or not we are in a war and need to fight it. saddam was sentenced by his country because the grand ole usa established a form of democracy to let the people of iraq decide his penalty. he was hung in iraq. the troops in iraq or the president didnt decide that. iraq did. also im pretty sure that anyone would choose the life in prision sentence over the death penatly, you would be supplied with everything you needed for free. sounds nice to me. and we are still in iraq to keep it stable and to keep terrorism down to the level we have it now…and incase you want to question me on that, we still have forts and posts in germany. oh and by the way, since democrats are overrunning the house now, just wait and see what happens to the country, i’d say the statue of liberty or the empire state building is next. oh and by the way…if you are a loser enough to decide to say that saddam didnt deserve the death penalty or better beheadding i dont know whats wrong with you!!! i lost 3 uncles in that terrorist attak so you really should experience losing someone by murder before you go off like that. and who was the right man to swing from the rope? the president? you couldnt be more wrong!